Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ominous skies

The Cira Centre on a cloudy late afternoon.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Richard Serra in conversation

Richard Serra at Penn

Pardon the blurry shot but that's all I could get without using the flash on my camera during the talk with Serra and curator, Lynne Cooke last Thursday evening at the University of Pennsylvania. Cook co-curated Richard Serra Sculpture: Fourty Years.

The talk lasted for about an hour and-a-half, with Serra doing most of the talking and Cooke not really asking great questions. The thing about Serra that's impressive is how direct and engaging he is with his language as he is with his work. I really wish Cooke was a bit more engaging with her questions. For the most part, familiar ground was covered in terms of his development as an artist living and working in New York and Europe in the late 60's-early 70's. It was enlightening to find out that Leo Castelli bankrolled Serra's work for three years, even when Serra didn't sell anything. One of those stories that the stuff of myths are made of. I doubt there are many art dealers in the world who are willing to give young artists that kind of support any more.

It was interesting to find out that Serra had a part in the design of the renovation of MoMA. In order to accomodate the three newest sculptures in the retrospective exhibition, which closed in September, a portion of an outside wall had to be made into a door thorough which the plates that made up the works were brought into the museum on the second floor. Serra was asked how big the door needed to be. According to Serra, he said, "About 40 feet wide and 13 feet high" and so it was done. That's a lot of pull.

The question-and-answer session was a bit of fun. One guy asked Serra if the size of a lot of his work was related to his relatively small physical stature and a possible 'Napoleon complex', which Serra denied. Another question came from a student who asked what qualifications would Serra look for in a possible apprentice. The answer to this intrigued me since I've wondered how he managed to keep all of his projects going and how many people might be helping him. Serra said that he only has four people in his circle. Including himself, his wife, an office manager and another assistant.

Someone else had a comment about how the controversy surrounding Tilted Arc may have affected Serra's other work at the time; if Serra saw this as a "low point" from which his newer, "more refined" work came out of. Serra debunked this notion quickly by saying that he never stopped working during that time and that Tilted Arc was probably the "most refined piece" he's ever made.

With that, it was all over.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

the old, the fat, and the ugly

Well done, Philly! Not only are we fat, we're the ugliest, too!


I just found that article over on Watching Paint Dry and couldn't resist commenting a little.

I mean, really, these stories and such are so far away from reality as to be laughable-and this really is laughable. Expecting much 'reality' out of surveys like the one quoted in the article is like expecting reality shows to be, well, real. Seriously, how are we going to compete with the surgically augmented denizens of South Beach?

The real sorry aspect of the situation is that there are going to be people and media outlets here that will fan the flames of 'controversy'. There will be all sorts of 'Beautiful Philadelphia' pagents and photo-ops with local pseudo-celebrities, like slick haired weathermen and bubbly news anchors. There will be a search for the 'Ugliest Philadelphian' others will call for a full-frontal boycott of Travel & Leisure Magazine that will go nowhere and mean nothing...just like the survey.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Open studio thoughts

top (left): Breathing(Again), 2003, acrylic on canvas, 36" x 48"
top(right): Inverted Dislocation, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 48" x 48"
bottom left: Blue Field, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 60" x 72"
bottom right: Vertical Blues and Grays, 2003, acrylic on panel, 12" x 12''

My studio set up for the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours.
This past weekend was a good time to pull out some older works along with the couple of newer pieces I had out. I have a lot of paintings in my studio, but I don't often pull much of the older work out to look at. It's one thing to have the images in your mind and another altogether to actually look at the works. I like my paintings having good homes outside of the studio, not to mention being able to sell work, but it's also good to be able to have some right at arm's length to study and simply enjoy from time to time.

Sometimes, I'll look at something I did two, three or five years ago and wonder how I got the results that I did. There are other pieces that I just want to stare at for long periods and transport myself back to when I was working on them. There have been times that I actually forget how something came together. I'll look at a painting of mine and wonder what that artist was up to when he did that piece, as if I were seeing it for the first time. Conversely, other paintings cause me to be transported right back to the moments of the work's creation-I'll remember everything going on around me at the time; a bit of visual and mental time-traveling.

Serra at Penn

Richard Serra is speaking at Penn this Thursday.

Conversation: Richard Serra+Lynne Cooke
Thursday Oct 25 @ 5:30pm
The Sachs Forum in Contemporary Art

Location: Meyerson Hall B1, 201 South 34th Street

Monday, October 22, 2007

I've been Schmapped...twice!

Three of my photos have been chosen to be featured on the Schmap Online Travel Guides. One for the Philadelphia Guide and two for the Washington, DC guide.

Open Studio recap

Despite the crazed end of last week with me attempting to prepare my studio for this past weekend's Open Studio event and plan for a party on Friday, everything turned out pretty well in the end. This is the fifth year that I've participated in POST and preparing for it is always nerve-wracking. Luckily, I had my wife here to help out a bit and keep me on a more even keel.

I didn't have much prep time on Friday, so on Saturday I spent the first couple of hours putting work up on the walls. I knew from past experience that no one shows up for the first 2 1/2 hours on both days, so I had some wiggle room to finish getting the studio in shape for visitors. Since my most recent work is in the show at the Art Alliance, I dug out a bunch of older paintngs and drawings. Some of the paintings I hadn't looked at in four years and it was good to see them in relation to the couple of newest paintings I have.

Overall, the weekend was good. The weather was nice which people took advantage of. I had about 18 visitors over the two days. Not bad, but fewer than I've had in the past. There were a few first-time visitors, which is always good. The interesting thing is that my space is now off the beaten track. Old City was much more acitve with artists years ago, but with the changes in the real-estate climate, most of the pockets of art studios are spread out further north, west, and south. On top of that, it was just a really nice weekend for being outdoors. I know that if I wasn't participating in POST, I would have been out there, too.

I look at the open studio events as another tool to get people to know who I am and what I'm up to. It's a great way for people who don't know what I do to find out and for others to see what I've been up to lately. I thought I might actually work on a painting or something, but I'm not in the paitning mood during Open Studios. I might mess around with a small drawing or something between visitors, but that's all. Having my wife there working on and showing some of her jewelry helped with the boredom that comes with just hanging out waiting for people to show up, too.

The second part of POST takes place next weekend for people who have studios west of Broad Street. I won't be able to visit anyone's space since I have to work. I'd like to, but visiting studios doesn't pay the bills.

More photos from the weekend are here

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

running behind

I'm so not ready for the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours this year. This fall has been a non-stop roll of too many things going back-to-back. Good things (getting married, exhibitions and more), but, yeah, a lot going on at one time. Something had to give and this time it's been my preparation for this weekend's festivities. I usually do a lot more self-promotion than I have and I'm behind with some new works to have up. I'm not going to worry too much.

Earlier this year, I was considering not participating at all, but I thought that wouldn't be a good idea since POST is growing and it's a good tool for promotion and letting the public get a glimpse of what goes on before the artwork winds up in the public or private realm.

I still have a couple of days, so I'm sure I'll get it together. I might even set myself up to be working when people come to the studio so there's more going on than usual during the event. I've done that in the past, but only to kill time during a slow hour one afternoon. It was actually a fruitful thing to do because a few of the resulting drawings sold during a show later.

Anyway, I'm off to bed. Tomorrow is going to be one of those days that I need a list to get through.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Art + $$$=????

Artblog on the difficulty of selling art in Philly

Art critic Jerry Saltz's scathing take on the current exploding money/hype machine drowning out rational thinking amongst art collectors and auction houses and the trickle-down effect.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Charles Burwell: 'Continuum'/Susie Brandt: 'Dam'

White Clusters & Blue Figures, 2007, oil on canvas, 16" x 16"

White Clusters & Blue Figures (detail)

Zones, 2007, oil on canvas, 23 1/2" x 18"

Stopped by the gallery to drop off a commissioned painting this afternoon and took the chance to see the Charles Burwell show sans the First Friday crowd. The show and work looked great. I've followed Burwell's work for years as a student and now I find myself exhibiting in the same gallery as him. Life's funny that way.

Burwell's canvases are filled with multiple layers of dripped paint patterns interspersed with hard-edged, sripped graphic elements-some curved and others straight. As inconcruous as this combination sounds, Burwell makes it work well. Using imagery that he began experimenting with in the 80's, Burwell adds layer upon layer of controlled paint drips and at some point, starts integrating the patterns and hard-edged curves into the works.

Also on display are several digital prints featuring his signature patterns in addition to multitudes of organic shapes. Some look like seashells and primitive life forms while others resemble cells of some sort, suggesting the intermingling of biology and technology. While digital, the prints have the look of very well executed etchings.

In conversation during the opening, Burwell told me that he never feels that the works are finished, regardless of how done they might look to the viewer. I've had those feelings myself about some of my exhibitions, but looking at Charle's paintings, I'd be hard-pressed to imagine anything else being done to them. The exciting thing is knowing he's nowhere near done and there's more to come, hence the title of his show, Continuum

Charles Burwell: 'Continuum' at Bridgette Mayer Gallery through October 27th, 2007

Vault Room:
Susie Brandt: 'Dam'

In the vault room is a piece by Baltimore-based textile artist, Susie Brandt. With Dam, Brandt has stacked folds of multicolored and texured fabrics along the back wall of the vault room at Bridgette Mayer. The first thing I noticed even before stepping into the truncated space was the vibrant colors and layers that allude to geology and other types of layering (metaphorical and literal). Secondly, the change in sound, or rather, the dampening of sound in the room brought another dynamic into play.

The fabric absorbs much of the sound that would ordinarily echo in the space, much the same as the walls of music studios. Not only are your visual senses engaged, your aural senses relay a message of calm that is at odds with the vibrant hues of the fabric. Dam works very well in the vault room and makes good use of an unusual space to great effect.


The Kiss

The rounded ramps of a parking garage barely brushing the walls of it's neighbor.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

16 Blanks

16 Blanks

Those are 16 new 6" x 6" panels I'm planning on using for a new series. I spent most of the afternoon and evening sawing and glueing. The panels I purchased in four packs and added the wood supports myself. I enjoy doing prep work like that, but towards the end of the night, I just wanted to be done. I almost stopped for the day, but decided that it would be better to push through and finish the last few. The more I finished, the faster I could move on and get to working on them. I've had it in my head for a while to do some smaller pieces after working on larger paintings for two back-to-back shows this summer. It'll be interesting to see what comes out of working on such an intimate scale.

Of course, there are more paintings swirling around in my head, as well. There are some ideas from the 'Stratum' series that I want to pursue in different ways so there are some potentially interesting artistic challenges to work out this winter.

I rarely read, much less buy, Artforum. There was one of the October issues on the shelf with a striking image of two casts of Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk on the cover. Next to the image was the title, The Art of Production. After wading through the first 150 pages of gallery exhibition ads, I found the articles, all of which explore the issue of the 'readymade' and artists who have to rely on fabricators to realize their works. That was worth it, so I wound up buying the mag. I'm looking forward to reading about how the artists they feature deal with the fabrication process and having teams of people essentially produce their work.

I often wonder where some of the artists get the money to have large projects done and I'm sure a lot of the money comes from grants and so forth. Then there are others, most notably the blue-chip names that probably get backing from the galleries and institutions they are associated with.